Perhaps the most difficult thing about PEDs in MMA is that combat sports aren’t exactly rife with measurable results. It’s not sprinting or power lifting. Scoring points is a matter of entirely subjective observation. And each fight has enough variables that getting replicable data is nearly impossible outside of the gym.
Was a fighter’s excellent cardio down to blood doping, or the fact that their opponent wasn’t able to push them hard enough? Was their power the product of HGH or testosterone injections? Or was it just a matter of landing the right shot at the right time with the right form?
Those are the kinds of questions that make measuring the overall effectiveness of something like the UFC’s USADA-led drug testing program hard to pin down, beyond the fact that sometimes the agency manages to catch people cheating. And one of their most famous collars is none other than former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw.
Dillashaw returns to the cage this Saturday, against Cory Sandhagen, after a two year suspension for EPO use. While other former training partners have alleged that his doping stretched back long before his disastrous bout with Henry Cejudo, Dillashaw has maintained that it was essentially a one-time thing—something he used to help get his body down to the 125 lb limit.
And in an interview with ex-UFC heavyweight Brandan Schaub, the former Team Alpha Male star and current Treigning Lab talent looked to distance himself further from any allegations that large portions of his career success might have been aided by the use of performance enhancing substances.
“If I thought I got somewhere due to PEDs, I wouldn’t be calling out Cory Sandhagen,” Dillashaw said during a recent episode of Schaub’s Food Truck Diaries (transcript via MMA Junkie). “I wouldn’t be asking for someone in the top five. I wouldn’t be knowing that I’m getting my belt back. I’m going to be a fucking animal when I get back in the cage.”
“They tried to offer me fights that weren’t top five, and I said no. I want someone top five. Dude, I’m coming back. I’m 35 years old. I want my belt back. I never lost it. I’m here to prove a point that I’m the best in the world, and what better way to do it then get back right to the top? Cory Sandhagen is a great opponent. I trained a ton with him. He’s a great athlete, but it’s a great fight for me. Him being No. 1 contender, it’s a great fight for me to win, come back, prove my worth and get my belt back as soon as Aljamain (Sterling) and (Petr) Yan figure out their deal.”
Dillashaw added that, following his suspension, USADA “put me under a microscope.” Testing all his past samples stretching back to 2016.
“They went back to all my fights that they ever collected my samples and retested all of them all the way back to my (Raphael) Assuncao fight after (Dominick) Cruz because they keep an A and B sample every time you get tested.”
Dillashaw vs. Sandhagen is set for the main event of UFC Vegas 31, taking place Saturday, July 24th, at the Apex facility in Las Vegas, NV. Alongside the bantamweight headliner, the card is also expected to feature a women’s bantamweight top contender’s bout between Aspen Ladd and Macy Chiasson.